The Walkabouts' Cataract was the first non-grunge album released by Seattle's Sub-Pop records. Much more rooted in folk music than, say, TAD's God's Balls, Cataract was still no precious affair. The influence of punk is clear in some of the rapid tempos and tough guitar work, but the Walkabouts music is as big and open as America itself.
Unfortunately, America proved not to be open to the Walkabouts. Sub-Pop dropped the band in the U.S. after their next album--1991's near perfect Scavenger--failed to meet sales expectations despite some slick production and high-profile guest spots from Natalie Merchant and Brian Eno. The band's subsequent albums have all been European-only releases. It seems absurd that one of America's best bands, playing distinctively American music, cannot get their music released in their home country, but perhaps there is something appropriate about that. The Walkabouts eventually relocated to Europe where the bulk of their small, but devoted, following resides.
Every track on Cataract is strong. I picked two of my favorites, but any other two would have done just as well. The album was released on CD in conjunction with the Rag & Bone EP, but that has been out-of-print for ages. Many of the group's albums are still available, and any and all of them are worth checking out. Also worth checking out is Chris Eckman's new solo album, Last Side of the Mountain, which features lyrics adapted from Slovenian poet Dane Zajc. Zajac's vivid imagery sounds right at home with Eckman's rootsy Americana, and beautiful guest vocals by fellow Walkabout Carla Torgerson make it difficult to distinguish it from a Walkabouts album. Highly recommended.